When an immigrant leaves one country for another, he or she takes along abilities, education and experience. The phenomenon of brain drain can be devastating for underdeveloped countries. But it is beneficial for the countries where educated, highly trained immigrants choose to live.
Most immigrants who come to the United States are not well educated. But experts estimate that about 25 percent of them have attended college. Technology and health care are the most common professions of highly educated immigrants.
Lindsay Lowell is Director of Policy Studies at the Institute for the Study of International Migration at Georgetown University. He says doctors from Africa are a prime example. "About 25 percent of our physicians are foreign medical graduates from abroad. A far lower proportion of our nurses are born abroad but still a significant share."
Mr. Lowell continued, "About 10 percent of all migrants with college education who were born in the developing world currently reside in either in Europe or the U.S. And if you look worldwide again at just those on science and engineer with graduate degrees, it is estimated 30 to 50 percent of all those born in a developing country live in the U.S. or Europe."
More than half of the immigrants in the U.S. are from Mexico. Close to two-thirds of them do not have a high school education. On the other end of the spectrum, some of Mexico's most highly educated people have moved to the U.S.
"The point is, as one's education improves the proportion of Mexicans living in the U.S. increases noticeably,” says Lowell. “So that among the best educated Mexicans -- those with the Ph.D. or graduate degree -- something like 30 to 40 percent live in the U.S. And that is disproportionally skewed towards females."
This immigration brain drain is nothing new -- and indications are it will continue, leaving underdeveloped countries poorer for the loss of some of their brightest minds.